GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, Raven Theatre. David Mamet’s comedy-drama, introduced in February 1984 at the Goodman Theatre before becoming a Broadway hit, is a deliciously sour satire of the American dream–symbolized here by a Cadillac, first prize in a sales contest sponsored by a Chicago real estate firm. Building a suspenseful story from the salesmen’s unethical efforts to win, Mamet draws us into his characters’ petty, profane world, relishing the ways their fractured syntax and raunchy language convey and cloak their intentions, focusing on the relationship between cocky young comer Ricky Roma and his aging mentor, Shelley “the Machine” Levene, whose declining job performance fuels a ruinous desperation.
Director Michael Menendian’s tersely intelligent staging–by far the best of several Mamet revivals on local stages over the past month–beautifully captures the play’s cutthroat world, thanks largely to crackling lead performances. Brian McCaskill’s slicing, seductive line readings capture Ricky’s calculating cynicism and deluded hopefulness, and the diminutive, balding Jordan Teplitz (a retired lawyer turned actor) brings maturity and eccentric flavor to Shelley, creating a comic pathos that avoids any hint of sentimentality (the way he caresses the “shh” sound in “bullshit” is a delight). A generally strong supporting cast and Menendian’s low-budget but authentically detailed set–a tacky Chinese restaurant that transforms into a ramshackle office–bolster the leads’ fine work, doing justice to Mamet’s brilliant, quintessentially Chicago update of Death of a Salesman. Attention must indeed be paid.